Horse bought unseen for Pony Club enjoys four-star success – and could go higher

  • A horse and rider who were united with the aim of Pony Club eventing and the rider’s first ever BE90 are now successfully competing at four-star – and could go further.

    Victoria Wilson and Don’t You Know came 15th in the CCI4*-S at Bramham last weekend – eight years after they competed there in the Pony Club showjumping. Victoria told H&H she bought “Gatsby”, aged five, unseen, when she was 15.

    “I bought him as a Pony Club pony, and he’s gone all the way to four-star, which is fantastic,” she said. “A friend had bought a horse from Peter Mellor, who ships from Ireland, and said he had a nice one. We saw a video and thought ‘Let’s bring him over’. We didn’t view him, it was the biggest risk you tell everyone not to take but somehow – oh my gosh, it’s like a miracle. He’s just fabulous.”

    Victoria said Gatsby was very green, having only done a few unaffiliated competitions, and quirky.

    “He still is!” she said. “But in the best possible way. Our first event, our local one at Frickley, he wouldn’t go anywhere near the water and wouldn’t jump ditches. One of my instructors – who still teaches me and was there at Bramham – said ‘He’s very talented but I don’t know what to do with this one’. But then he figured out it was fun. I was quite novice too but we learned together, and somehow we got to Bramham.”

    When Gatsby was six, he and Victoria competed in the Pony Club showjumping at Bramham, Victoria’s local event, to her delight. She said she would never have dreamed she would take part in the horse trials there.

    “It was never a goal but the more we did, we progressed, from 90 to 100 to novice; we were thinking ‘He’s going to have to go up a level, isn’t he?’ and as long as he’s sound and happy, we’ll carry on. I always enjoyed riding but didn’t want it to be my living, but now I work with horses every day and hope to carry on – he’s changed my life completely. It’s brilliant.”

    Victoria said it is a family affair; her non-horsey but “incredibly supportive” parents and her sister Jessica, who also rides, are the event team, and the four of them plus Richard Thompson, her trainer from Pony Club days, go to the events and “have a fabulous time”.

    The team’s first four-star was at Thorseby in March, where Victoria blamed “my inexperience” for one “silly run-out” across country, then they came eighth at Chatsworth in May.

    “He’s just phenomenal, and we’re thinking ‘What more can he do; surely we’ll get to the top level?’ Victoria said. “I thought Bramham would have to be it but now we’re thinking we’ve got to carry on, which is so exciting. It was a dream to do Bramham since I was little, but I feel we could carry on to do the four-star at Blair, which would also be a dream come true. I can’t not, can I? I’m competitive, and with him doing so well, if I was to qualify for five-star, and he’s happy and well, there’s no reason not to give it a go.”

    But, having ensured she bought a four-star showjumping picture from Bramham to display alongside her Pony Club one taken there, Victoria said she is happy whatever happens next.

    “It doesn’t matter what he does from here because he’s priceless to us and doesn’t owe us a thing,” she said. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

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